Tangled nets with fish like swords that are as sharp as the fishermen’s hungry and contorted shoulders. Vicious dogs that gnaw at each other’s necks, cantankerous chickens brandishing their claws.
(Fishermen with Catch – The Lovers – Fighting Figures)
These are just some of the violent images that are part of the aesthetic language of Filipino-Chinese painter and national artist Ang Kiukok.
They go beyond mere angst and repressed emotion; they dig holes deeper than the source. I believe that Ang Kiukok is foremost a Filipino painter, and his art a Filipino medium, because his paintings uncover common feelings borne from the same experiences.
(Fish – Fisherman)
He has expressed, even in the originally foreign tools of cubism and expressionism, the collective anger, alienation, and suffering unique to the history of the Philippines-such as the specific event of Martial Law under President Marcos
and the general predicament of poverty caused by centuries of backwardness.
(Crucifixion – Clowns – Mother and Son)
Of course, his works also express the universal, if only seen through the eyes of a nation: a man on fire, limbs entangled in fatal combat or twisted and broken into each other in the embrace of love.
(The Last Supper)
There are angles and edges to the righteous faces of apostles, to the bond and burden between mother and child, the bones and maws of fish, the limbs of desert horses. Finally, Kiukok expresses the machination of what is human by showing the industrially hammered, nailed, cut, welded, sliced, and broken body of the man on the crucifix. We all share in that silent and anguished cry, in tears that run from empty sockets.